You are on page 1of 2

The State Policy Network (SPN) is an umbrella group of right-wing think tanks across the country.

The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is SPNs cookie-cutter think tank in Illinois. While the Institute claims to be focused on issues important to the people of Illinois, it actually pushes an agenda dictated by its national right-wing funders and partners.

IPI is an active member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a controversial right-wing organization in which state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists come together to vote on model bills behind closed doors, with no public input, to be introduced in state houses across the country. ALECs model legislation often benefits its corporate members bottom line. IPI is, or has been, a member of several ALEC task forces, including the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force, the Education Task Force, the Health and Human Services Task Force, and the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. On these task forces, IPI writes, votes on, and/or promotes legislation that would privatize public schools, block access to affordable healthcare, and lower taxes for its corporate partners. Yet, pushing ALECs controversial agenda is just part of IPIs support for ALEC. In 2013, when ALEC held its annual conference in Chicago, IPI was a Vice-Chairman level sponsor of the event, meaning it contributed at least $25,000 to ALEC.

Defund and privatize Illinois public schools through vouchers, charter schools, and giving tax credits to corporations who contribute to a voucher program Block access to affordable healthcare for Illinois citizens Oppose workers collective bargaining rights and push so-called right to work legislation in opposition of workers forming a union Oppose raising Illinois minimum wage

Destroy public pensions by switching from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan Oppose renewable clean energy and repeal pollution protections Enact ALEC-style spending caps that require a supermajority of the General Assembly to fund essential public services Oppose fairness in taxes by opposing measures to make tax brackets based on income levels

When youre up there delivering a report on Medicaid reimbursements, but youre also backing candidates and soliciting campaign contributions for your PAC, people are going to wonder how you are balancing those sorts of things.
- Dr. Kent Redfield, political science professor emeritus at the University of Illinois Springfield and an expert on campaign finance, on IPIs political activities

Read more: IPIs nonprofits status, the institute has affiliated itself questions#ixzz2eW81COcS with the right-wing Illinois Liberty PAC. IPI CEO John Tillman
chaired the PAC, and the two organizations originally shared the same address. In addition, according to state campaign finance reports, the Illinois Policy Institute made two contributions to the Illinois Republican Party in May 2008, totaling $500, an apparent violation of its 501c3 nonprofit status. The institute is also known for wrongfully accusing Democratic state Rep. Bob Rita of a felony and its extensive lobbying activity. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, IPI is limited in the amount of lobbying activity it is allowed to participate in.

Illinois Policy Institute: Policy Briefs Illinois Policy Institute: 2013 Legislative Agenda

[IPI] has always been extreme, and it has always been politicalThey all repackage the same tired rightwing talking points and try to resell them to unsuspecting reporters and citizens.
- Anders Lindall, AFSCME Council 31

In June 2013, IPI was criticized for its ties between to a private digital education corporation and its push to privatize Illinois public schools with virtual charter schools. At the time, the Illinois legislature was considering HB 494, which put a one-year moratorium on virtual charter schools. IPI vigorously opposed the legislation, and even held a digital learning symposium shortly after the bill passed. Virtual Learning Solutions, the entity which was to govern the virtual charter school for 18 suburban school districts and control the more than $16 million in Illinois tax dollars had HB 494 not passed, is headed by IPI Vice President of Policy Ted Dabrowski. In addition, Eric Kohn, the husband of another IPI staffer, is the treasurer of the Virtual Learning Solutions. Nonetheless, IPI President John Tillman denied his staff had a financial interest in the Illinois Virtual Charter School plan.

While IPI is not required to disclose its funders to the public, and does not do so voluntarily, the identities of the few known funders are a sign that IPI may be beholden to out-of-state right-wing organizations, rather than the people of Illinois. IPI has received nearly $2 million from the Koch-funded Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. The two Donors organizations, which keep their donors anonymous to create another layer of secrecy, are known as the dark money ATM of the conservative movement. IRS records show that Donors funding represented at least 26% of IPIs total revenue between 2008 and 2011. Other notable out -of-state IPI funders include the Roe Foundation (of SPN founder Thomas Roe), the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the rightwing Cato Institute, and the Coors familys Castle Rock Foundation (of Coors Brewing Company). FUNDER BASED IN AMOUNT YEARS Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund Virginia $1,895,706 2005-2011 Mercer Family Foundation New York $350,000 2010-2011 Jaquelin Hume Foundation California $130,000 2007-2011 The Roe Foundation South Carolina $120,000 2004-2011 State Policy Network Virginia $117,500 2003-2011 JM Foundation New York $60,000 2010-2012 The Cato Institute Washington, DC $50,000 2006 The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Wisconsin $20,000 2009-2010 Castle Rock Foundation Colorado $15,000 2010 The McWethy Foundation Illinois $13,000 2010-2011 Dunns Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking Florida $10,000 2011 [American Bridge Conservative Transparency; Donors Trust IRS 990s, 2008-2011; Donors Capital Fund IRS 990s, 2008-2011; the Cato Institute IRS 990, 2006; Illinois Policy Institute IRS 990s, 2008-2011]

With over $2.8 million in reported revenue over $400,000 in net assets in 2011, there is a reason why the Illinois Policy Institute is so well funded. When the institute has received grants from an out-of-state organization like the Bradley Foundation or the Donors groups, its subsequent activity has benefited the funding organizations goals. Be it the Bradley Foundations constant push to privatize schools or the Donors groups and the Koch brothers campaign against climate change science, IPIs activities largely benefit its corporate and special interest donors. From calling for lowering corporate taxes, advocacy against workers rights and the minimum wage, opposition to renewable energy sources, and work against a more fair progressive tax, IPI is in the hands of its special interest funders and partners, not the people of Illinois.

The Illinois Policy Institute continues to act less and less like a charitable taxexempt foundation and more like an aggressive political committee.
[Chicago Now, 5/2013]